3 Types of Frogs You Can Find in Nature

As a kid I noticed that there are different types of frogs just by observing them in their natural habitats. They seemed to have different features and habits depending on where I found them. But it’s not until after doing research later on in life that I realized what truly makes these frogs different from one another.

Generally there are 3 main types of frogs that you can find in the wild, including Aquatic Frogs, Arboreal Frogs, and Terrestrial Frogs. Aquatic Frogs live in water, Arboreal Frogs live in trees and Terrestrial Frogs are generally Toads that live on land.

There are over 7,200 Anura (frog species) that have been discovered, but many of them can be placed into these three main types based on their different body structure, habitats and habits. Let’s have a look at what differentiates terrestrial, arboreal, and aquatic frogs while providing examples.

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Differences: Aquatic, Arboreal & Terrestrial Frogs

Generally, Aquatic Frogs live in water, are smooth, bright, lean, and have long legs to jump and swim. Arboreal Frogs generally live in trees, have padded toes for climbing and tend to be small. And Terrestrial Frogs like Toads live on land, have dry warty skin and short legs for digging.

Here are the main differences between aquatic, arboreal and terrestrial frogs:

AquaticArborealTerrestrial
HabitatWaterTreesLand
FeetWebbedPaddedFingers
Parotoid GlandsNoNoYes
WartsNoNoYes
BodyLeanLeanStubby
SkinSlimySlimyDry
ColorBrightBrightDull
Hind LegsLongLongShort
MovementJump | SwimClimbCrawl
StrengthSwimmingClimbingDigging
ActivitiesSit in WaterClimbingBurrowing
PoisonousGenerally NoSomeYes
SpawnClustersClustersStrings

As for similarities between aquatic, arboreal and terrestrial frogs, they are all amphibians from the order of Anura. They all eat similar things depending on their size, like bugs and small rodents. Generally these frogs reproduce by amplexus, and spawn in water during mating season.

Learn more about these topics in the following articles on our blog:

1. Many Frogs Are Aquatic Frogs

As a general rule, Aquatic Frogs live in water, have webbed feet, slimy skin, and are powerful swimmers. Examples of Aquatic Frogs include Bullfrogs, Pickerel Frogs and Pig Frogs.

If you were asked to draw a frog, you would probably instinctively draw an Aquatic Frog. They are very common in pop culture and tend to be the general representation of what a frog looks like.

Aquatic Frogs Live in Water

Aquatic frogs live most of their lives in the water. In fact, some species never leave their watery habitats. Many of the frogs located in North America are Aquatic frogs and they are especially active during breeding season

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However, if you see a frog in the water, do not assume it is an aquatic frog. Take a closer look at its toes. Aquatic frog species have well-defined webbing in their toes. Aquatic Frogs are commonly found in large marshes, bogs, and ponds that have active wildlife the frogs can eat.

Aquatic Frogs Have Webbed Feet For Swimming

Frogs that live in water tend to have webbed feet which act like flippers that propel them when they swim. Having webbed toes allows frogs to have more velocity and swim faster by pushing the water behind them with more force and volume.

Many frogs only have webbing on their hind feet only. Others have webbing on both their hind feet and front feet. The frog’s skin is also hydrophobic meaning that it repels water from its outer layer. The cilia on it’s skin also help propel it through water. Its aerodynamic build also enables less water resistance as it swims (CTNF).

Bullfrogs are Aquatic Frogs

As a general rule, Bullfrogs are large Aquatic Frogs green with yellow bellies. They can be found in ponds, marshes and bogs, have a predominant tympanum for hearing and have spotted or striped legs.

American Bullfrogs especially like bugs, and depending on their size, they may also eat mice, large spiders, small turtles, and small snakes. Bullfrogs can be ferocious predators and eat just about anything they can fit into their mouths. Learn more about what a tympanum is in this post on our blog.

Other examples of Aquatic Frogs include Leopard Frogs, Pig Frogs, Pickerel Frogs, Tarahumara Frog, Common Frogs, African Dwarf Frogs, and Columbia Spotted Frogs.

You Can Eat Some Aquatic Frogs

Generally, Bullfrog, Pig Frog, Leopard Frog, Javan Giant Frog, Edible Frog, and Anatolian Water Frog legs are consumed by humans. These frogs are mostly large Aquatic Frogs. 

Frog legs are a common delicacy in France, Turkey, Indonesia, and the South of the USA. We tend to consume non-poisonous, large aquatic frogs since hundreds of small frogs would be required to have enough leg meat and that would be very wasteful (CTNF).

Large aquatic frogs have big powerful legs they use for jumping and swimming. They tend to be the best kinds of frogs to consume since they are not poisonous and have enough meat to make up a meal. Frog legs generally have the texture of chicken but taste like fish.

Learn more about eating frog legs and how to be an aware consumer when buying them.

2. Tree Frogs are Arboreal Frogs

Generally, Arboreal Frogs prefer to live in the trees and are thus commonly referred to as Tree Frogs. They tend to be small and have padded toes made for climbing. Tree Frogs live on leaves, or near the base of trees. There are over 800 species of Arboreal Frogs that can be found around the World. 

Examples of Tree Frogs include Spring Peeper, American Green Tree Frogs, European Tree Frogs, Australian Green Tree Frogs, Poison Dart Frogs and Red-Eyed Tree Frogs

Tree Frogs Have Sticky Padded Toes For Climbing

Tree Frogs have sticky pads on each of their toes that allow them to be excellent climbers that can stick to bark, branches and leaves. Tree Frogs generally have long fingers that allow them to wrap around small branches and hold on to them without falling.

Tree Frogs toes act like suction cups that stick to smooth surfaces. Tree Frogs can even stick to glass! They generally have small, light bodies that allow them to stick to leaves without falling. Learn more about tree frog toes in this article on our blog.

Some Tree Frogs Can Fly

Some Tree Frogs move by “flying” and are known as Flying Frogs. They generally jump from trees and float in the air until they reach their destination thanks to the webbing between their toes.

Flying Frogs do not actually fly like birds, but these types of frogs can glide after a powerful jump thanks to their padded and webbed feet. They jump from tree to tree to avoid predators and sometimes have to glide through the air to get there. Flying Frogs may jump from one tree, spread open their webbed feet, and then glide and direct their movement with their feet, and then use them as a parachute to land safely.

Examples of “Flying” Frogs include Wallace’s Flying Frog, Malabar Gliding Frog, Rhacophorus Reinwardtii, Chinese flying frog, Malayan Flying Frogs, and Rhacophorus Pseudomalabaricus. 

Poison Dart Frogs Are Poisonous Tree Frogs

Poison Dart Frogs are small and very colorful Tree Frogs that are native to South America. They range in color from green to yellow, blue, red, black, orange, and gold, and can be solid, striped or spotted. There are about 200 species of Poison Dart Frogs. 

Poison Dart Frogs are colorful to show their predators they are not to be eaten. Because of this, they only have one predator which is a snake that has developed a resistance to their poison and can eat them with no consequences.

Learn more about poisonous tree frogs on our blog.

Spring Peeper Are Tree Frogs

Spring Peepers are very small light brown to russet-colored frogs with a darker X shape on their back and can be found near small bodies of water in North America. Their name comes from the “peep” sounds males make during mating season to call female frogs.

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There is a small pond near where I live but it is very hard to spot Spring Peepers. They are extremely elusive and blend in super well with their environment. Bu I sure can hear them! Watch the video above where I show how to find these very cool Tree Frogs in the wild.

Learn more about Spring Peeper in this profile on our site.

3. Toads are Terrestrial Frogs

Terrestrial Frogs like Toads make their homes on the ground, usually under shrubbery to hide from their prey. During the warmest parts of the day, these types of frogs burrow into the soft layer of soil. This allows their dry skin to absorb water from the ground. You can identify these frogs by their lack of climbing skills and short jumps.

Examples of frogs with finger-like toes include Common European Toads (Bufo Bufo), Spadefoot Toads, Great Plains Toad, Yosemite Toad, Eastern American Toad and Canadian Toads.

Toads Have Fingers Made For Digging

Toads have feet with finger-like, sometimes pointed or spaded digits allowing them to be excellent diggers. Toads do not climb, swim or jump very well since their legs are short, but their fingers and toes allow them to dig and crawl very well.

Toads dig backwards using their hind feet to push dirt out of the way, left and right, until they gradually dig themselves into a hole and can burrow in the moist ground. This helps them stay cool, humid, and avoid predators.

Toads Have Warty Stubby Bodies And “Clawed Fingers”

Toads have dry, rough, warty skin whereas Frogs have smooth, moist, slimy skin. Toads have short hind legs with fingers made for digging whereas Frogs have long hind legs with webbed toes for swimming or padded toes for climbing.

Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The same goes for a toad; they are terrible swimmers, they are not good at climbing, but judge them on their digging skills and you will be surprised at how good they are.

Toads have short bodies and powerful legs that help them dig the soil behind them to make moist holes for them to burrow in during the day. Even though their skin is rough and dry, they breathe and drink through their skin like frogs and need access to moisture to survive.

Toads Crawl to Get Around

Toads generally crawl to move from one place to another whereas frogs jump or climb. This has to do with their anatomy since toads have short hind legs made for digging, whereas frogs have long hind legs made for jumping, swimming, or climbing.

This is one of the reasons why it is important to put a cover over your window well if you happen to have basement windows in your home. Toads often fall into window wells and get stuck since they cannot jump high or climb out. If you have toads in your window well and would like to know what to do to help them, check out the dedicated guide on our site.

Toads Spend Their Days Burrowed Underground

Generally, toads spend most of the day on land in holes that they burrow in to breathe, drink, stay hydrated, and hide from predators. Toads are active at night when they come out to hunt.

Toads live on land whereas frogs are generally close to a water source. Toads do not need as much access to water. Toads are most often found in humid areas such as grasslands or fields and can even show up in people’s yards. Additionally, toads need access to soil, mud, or dark, hidden, humid spaces to burrow within their habitat.

Toads Spawn in Strings

Like frogs, toads are born in water, but a key difference between the two species is that toads leave their place of birth to live on land once they are out of the tadpole stage and become toadlets (or baby toads). They only return to the water where they were born to reproduce once they are mature enough.

If you find Anura spawn in the wild and are wondering if they blog to toads or frogs, look at the shape of the spawn. Toad eggs stick together in lines forming strings, and frogspawn sticks together in large clusters to anchor to vegetation. Check out the video below from our YouTube channel for more information on how frogs reproduce.

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All Toads Are Poisonous

All toads are poisonous since they have parotoid glands behind their eyes and on their backs that secrete a toxic poison when they feel stressed or in danger. Toads use their poison as a defense mechanism. Some toads can be lethal to humans. Others are not very dangerous but can be lethal to pets if they lick or ingest them. Be sure to consult a vet quickly if your cat or dog licks or ingests a toad.

However, most frogs are not poisonous. Many of the well-known poisonous frogs live in the Rainforest. Poison Dart Frogs are small, primary-colored frogs that use their color to warn predators not to eat them. They can secrete enough poison to kill 10 people.

The biggest issue you should be aware of is that both toads and frogs can carry salmonella. So it is important to wash your hands before and after handling frogs or toads, wear gloves, or avoid handling them at all if possible.

Learn more about poisonous frogs in this complete guide on our blog.

Some Toads are Invasive

Cane Toads (Bufo Marinus) were introduced to Australia in 1935 to kill beetles that eat sugarcane crops. Only 102 Cane Toads were released in 1935 but there are now an estimated 200 million Cane Toads in Australia.

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Introducing toads to Australia was seen as a good way to reduce the number of beetles that ate sugarcane crops. This backfired because Cane Toads do not climb very well and did not effectively reach the insects they were put there to kill. Instead, they decided to feed on almost everything else in their path, and by 2009 these toads invaded over 2000 km of Australian land and are proliferating at incredible rates killing off native species along the way.

Learn more about Cane Toads in Australia (and Florida) here.

More About Types of Frogs

We have lots of articles about types of frogs and you can learn more in our guides below:

Common Frog Type Questions

What are the different types of frogs? Generally there are 3 main types of frogs including Aquatic Frogs, Arboreal Frogs, and Terrestrial Frogs. Aquatic Frogs live in water, Arboreal Frogs live in trees and Terrestrial Frogs are generally Toads that live on land.

What are the most common types of frogs? The most common frogs you can find in North America are Aquatic Frogs. You may also find Arboreal Frogs and Terrestrial Frogs. Aquatic Frogs live in water, Arboreal Frogs live in trees and Terrestrial Frogs are generally Toads that live on land.

What is a group of frogs called? A group of frogs is called an army, a colony or a chorus. A group of Toads is called a knot or nest. And a group of frog eggs is called a cluster or frogspawn.

Sources

AmphibiaWeb. 2021. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 25 May 2021.

Grenouilles, Crapauds Et Rainettes: Morphologie, Comportement, Alimentation Et Reproduction …, by S. Caratozzolo, De Vecchi, 2008.